I can confidently say …

Katty Kay is the anchor of BBC World America and a contributor and guest host for Morning Joe at MSNBC. She and Claire Shipman are coauthors of the New York Times bestseller, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know. For a taster of what can be expected from the book, have a good gander below:

“Confidence, it turns out, is partly genetic. You know that sense you have that some people just do find life easier? Well it could be that they have confident genes. They were simply born with the right DNA.

For years neuroscientists have been looking at the genetic factors behind negative psychological attributes – depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety etc. They are now just starting to research the genes that control positive character qualities – intelligence, optimism and finally confidence.

The scientists we interviewed as we tried to dissect self-assurance for The Confidence Code are mostly examining confidence in monkeys and rats (who knew there was such a thing as a confident rat) but much of the genetic make up is remarkably similar to humans. It is all groundbreaking stuff and the science is changing very fast.

The old nurture/nature debate is stale and the latest research looks more at how our nature (our genes) is affected by our nurture (our environment).

As they hone in on the science of confidence, our researchers insist there is no one confidence gene. Rather, there are a group of genes which are thought to affect our predisposition for either anxiety or, on the flip side, confidence. Anxiety and confidence are widely seen as the mirror traits of each other. Doubtless scientists will discover more of them but for now, here are three confidence genes.

  • SLC6A4 is the gene that controls the serotonin levels in our body. Serotonin you probably know is the hormone that is associated with feelings of well being. It’s the basis of many anti depressants or SSRIs. The gene that controls how effectively our bodies process serotonin is the SLC6A4 – or the serotonin transporter gene. It comes in several variants and the variant you have will affect how confident you are.
  • OXTR is the gene that controls our oxytocin levels. Oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone, is the wonderful stuff that floods our bodies and makes us feel the world is a friendly place (sort of a healthy version of ecstasy!). An efficient OXTR gene also helps predispose you to confidence. By the way, women get a surge of oxytocin after sex, when breastfeeding and from hanging out with female friends.
  • COMT is a tricky gene. It is also known as the worrier/warrior gene and it controls the level of dopamine in our bodies. That’s the hormone associated with stress and high performance. It too comes in different variants. If you get the worrier variant of the COMT gene the chances are you are more anxious and less confident. The warrior gene makes you more prone to confidence.

You can find out if you have the confident version of these genes by getting a genetic test done. We got them done last summer by two different companies – 23andme (when it was still doing testing) and a newer company, Genomind, which looks more at genes that affect our psychological characteristics.

Genetic testing is a very simple process. The company sends you a kit that includes a small plastic phial. You spit into that, shake it around, FedEx it back and a couple of weeks later you get the results emailed to you.

It’s the waiting for the results that is nerve wracking – a bit like waiting for your SAT results to come through. I had developed my own scenario for my genetic blueprint and somehow felt that anything less than a certain level of genetic predisposition to confidence would be failing. I know, that is totally absurd. One thing we really can’t control in life is our genes. But being a bit of perfectionist I wanted good strong confident genes.

I was disappointed. My genetic make up does not suggest confidence. I did pretty well on the OXTR gene – I have strong levels of oxytocin, which means I generally like people and find the world friendly. But my variants of both the SLC6A4 and the COMT gene suggest more anxiety than confidence.

Once I was over beating myself up for not having perfect genes, I realized something however. I am a confident person, even though my genes don’t predispose me to confidence. Which leads us to an even more important attribute of this essential quality. Yes, confidence is partly genetic, but even more so, it is a function of the choices we make. I am confident because of the decisions I have made in life, because of the things I have done, not because of my genes.”

If you want to learn more about how confident you are, you can take the free assessment at The Confidence Code website and find out.

All rights reserved © 2015 Andrew Hutchinson

Hutch on Management

Occasionally I get asked to advise those embarking on a career in management. Well it certainly isn’t my style to be straight laced but I’ve never ceased to be amazed by those who take themselves a little too seriously. You had to be there to witness the look of horror on a certain recruiter’s face when I shared a few gems of wisdom garnered over twenty years in management. I considered the presentation to be such a success that it now forms the basis of one of my stand-up routines.
facepic Andrew
1 Never walk without a document in your hands
People with documents in their hands look like hard-working employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in the hands look like they’re heading to the canteen. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they’re heading to the toilet. Above all make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.

2 Use computers to look busy
Any time you use a computer it looks like work to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal email, chat and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by the boss and you will get caught your best defence is to claim that you’re teaching yourself to use new software to save valuable training expenses.

3 Messy desk
Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your desk bury the document you will need half way down in an existing stack and rummage great when he or she arrives.

4 Voice mail
Never answer your phone if you have voicemail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing, they call because they want you to do work for them. That’s no way to live. Screen all of your calls to voicemail. If somebody leaves a voice mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know that they’re not there, it looks like you’re hard-working and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel. Which do you think came first, the telephone or the telephone-answering machine? Exactly. You are being a luddite if you answer the telephone, holding back progress and showing tremendous disrespect to the inventor of the answering machine.

5 Looking impatient and annoyed
Always try to look impatient and annoyed to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.

6 Leave the office late
Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read but had no chance as a child – I missed out on Tin Tin. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important emails at unearthly hours and during bank holidays.

7 Creative sighing for effect
Sigh loudly when there are people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.

8 Stacking strategy
It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc (thick computer manuals are the best).

9 Building vocabulary
Read up on some computer and technical magazines and pick out all of the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember: they don’t have to understand what you say, but you will sound impressive.

10 Have two jackets
If you work in a big open plan office, always leave the spare jacket draped over the back of your seat. This gives the impression that you are still on the premises. The second jacket should be worn whilst wandering around elsewhere. When it is not being worn hang it in the cleaners’ cupboard. Get the cleaners’ permission and strike up a friendship with the cleaners – remember they are the ones who know what is going on.

11 Most important
Make sure your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder while you’re reading this.

Hang on a minute
Or more importantly instead of getting ‘all corporate’ and throwing a fit at the sight of such subversive advice, if you are an aspiring middle manager take pleasure in the fact that you have been warned about the antics of others. Of course if you are a leader in waiting you might want to reflect on the fact that all of the strategies outlined are a response to a management style which values control and draws its strength from a macho culture – a culture which sadly still prevails in too many organisations.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

It’s Time to Go Viral on a Shoestring

I can’t put it better than social media whizz Jason Squires does. There was a time when advertising meant forking out a wedge of cash for a professionally designed, if not a little insipid, poster or ad that might or might not have reached its intended target.

For the big boys that was just fine. For small businesses, that was far from ideal.

Today, more and more businesses are opting away from traditional advertising methods in favour of using social media to mass promote companies, and for good reason.

The Downfall of Traditional Advertising

The advertising world as it was is now but a hulking dinosaur patiently awaiting extinction.

Go back just a decade and advertising through platforms like TV, radio, magazine, newspaper, and billboard advertising was still very much the thing for businesses to do.

Today, magazine and newspaper sales have plummeted with people preferring to get their news and information from the internet and iPhones. TV advertising is slumping as more and more households opt to fast forward commercial breaks on pre-recorded digital television. As for radio advertising, well.

While it might sound like we’re painting a very deliberate picture of doom and gloom, consider just how much attention you pay to those platforms today.

The Emergence of Social Media

Corresponding with the downturn in traditional advertising, the emergence of the internet, and more specifically social media, saw a huge increase in small businesses adopting a D.I.Y. ethic and getting out there and appealing to new customers.

The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest have all grown into huge internet presences with millions of users. As the social media has grown, so has its use as a marketing tool.

Today, you’d be hard pushed to find a major company without a Facebook page while start-ups generally have a Twitter account before a bank account.

The benefits of using social media to mass promote companies are huge. Firstly, there’s the small fact that you can tailor your campaign so that it lands in front of your perfect customer. Then there’s the fact that it’s inexpensive.

Even companies with a shoestring budget can afford to play marketing in the social media world, mainly because so much of it is free.

Going ‘Viral’…

Perhaps the biggest bonus to using social media to mass promote companies is the opportunity to make an impact. The internet has been built around viral marketing.

Viral marketing brought us ‘Gangnam Style’ and the ‘Harlem Shake’.

Viral marketing brought us a gorilla playing the drums and flashmobs.

And viral marketing brought us cats. So many cats.

In today’s media climate, you don’t need a big budget to wow. Whereas a rock band would once have spent millions filming a promo video, today bands are asking fans to splice together footage to create a video. Why? Because it’s cheaper and it has every chance to make as big an impact as Slash stood in the desert playing guitar.

So, if you’re plotting a marketing campaign on a shoestring budget, social media is without a doubt the best place to start. So get that Social Media Marketing Strategy sorted, roll out training and toast that successful implementation.

The ’24′ Reboot: What Can Your Brand Learn?

Jack Bauer is no stranger to risky moves. Heck he took down President of the United States Charles Logan in Season 5 of “24”; he has managed to come back from the dead—literally—several times; and he has withstood torture as if it was a part of his job description.

24This May, the producers of “24” made a risky move of their own when they tried to resurrect the cult phenomenon—a TV show that ended four years ago after 10 years and eight seasons. On May 5, “24: Live Another Day” premiered, a 12-week mini-series that picks up with Jack Bauer’s life four years after the series finale.

It’s a move that made sense. After all, in its heyday the show dominated—raking in a series of killer Emmy accolades from “Outstanding Drama Series” to “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.” Professors taught mass media lectures about the fanfare surrounding “24”; journalists clamored to interview the man behind Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland; and fans everywhere waited with bated breath to see if Jack would save the day in 24 hours.

But is it a move that paid off?

According to Nielsen, the “24: Live Another Day”premiere rated 2.6 among Adults 18-49 pulling in 8.1 million viewers, representing a 94 percent retention from the show’s Season 8 finale 2.8 result back on May 24, 2010. Industry pundits confirm that for a show that just took a four-year hiatus, the premiere drew impressive numbers.

So what does Jack Bauer have to do with your brand? A lot. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the “24” reboot:

  • Timing is Everything: To be a cutting-edge marketer you must know your audience. That means understanding when you need to hit hard with a new product unveil or market expansion and when to pull back—i.e. when messages become too saturated. In the case of “24,” by the time Season 8 came, fans were exhausted. They were no longer on the edge of their seats to see whether Jack could save the day nor surprised when someone supposedly “good” turned “evil.” Producers were smart and pulled the plug. Now, years later, fans miss Jack’s isms like “Dammit Chloe!” and watching the clock countdown. Your takeaway? Know when it’s time to push a new marketing venture and when to let old campaigns take a back seat. You can dust off those campaigns later but be sure to give them a break when needed.
  • It’s Important to Take Risks: The producers of “24” certainly took a big risk pitching a mini-series but it paid off. The premiere numbers demonstrate there is still a very loyal “24” base, and the show is now gathering a new swath of fans. As a marketer, it is imperative to take similar risks. Be willing to introduce a new visual concept to your logo; experiment with a new white paper; try out a new blogging tactic. Often the biggest risks are met with the biggest rewards so identify where you can experiment and give something new a go.
  • Know What Works: When “24” rebooted, it didn’t change its fundamental focus of Jack Bauer trying to stop terrorist activity. Treat your brand the same way by remaining true to your core competencies. For example, if your bread-and-butter is bringing enterprise-grade capabilities to small businesses at a fraction of the price, don’t change your value proposition. Rather, change your selling technique, your customer service touch points or the way in which you tell your corporate story. Remain true to what your customers love about your brand and experiment elsewhere.

Jack is back. And whether you followed him then or not, perhaps your brand can learn a thing or two from America’s favorite counter terrorist agent this season. So… what lesson will you take away?

By Carrie Majewski, Published May 20, 2014

Read more at http://www.business2community.com/branding/24-reboot-can-brand-learn-0888014#59dXS9dfIuufuGYJ.99

 

Snowballing

Snowballing is one of my favourite ways of clustering ideas or concepts when I’m working with groups.  It can be used in combination with brainstorming and it leads to the identification of themes in a large set of data.

It is particularly good for facilitating an equality of input, lessening the inhibition of individuals in group process, flexibility in the grouping of material, allowing for iteration, a bit of peace and quiet, and throwing up unexpected results, which appeals to my anarchistic tendencies.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAsmile

Process:

  1. Generation: Individuals write one idea, issue or concept relating to the subject under consideration onto post-it notes, one idea etc per post-it.  After a few minutes of generating post-its individually, the group (or facilitator) randomly place the post-its onto a large wall.  Then group members have another round of generating material having been inspired (hopefully!) by what colleagues have produced.
  2. Clustering: Silently (yes that means no talking!) the group members re-arrange the post-its on the wall/table into groupings.  Anyone is free to move any post-it, or rearrange clusters etc.  The idea is that the group will try various groupings/clusterings until there is an unspoken agreement on a final form and the process finishes. Expect “false-endings” when it appears to be over but sudden rearrangement by someone with a sudden insight…

The silence is important, at least for the first few minutes.  If one person explains why they have moved a post-it, others follow.  Silent clustering is more intuitive and allows more equal participation.  If there’s a near ding dong with a post-it getting passed back and forth between clusters, intervene.  Don’t arbitrate, just copy it.  You can’t be in two places at once but a post-it can (Hutchinson’s Fifth Law).

Once clustered – the group give a name to each cluster.

Variations:

  • Facilitator can read out all post-its having collected them in. Can iterate many or few times.
  • Facilitator or problem owner can intervene with more direction after each iteration.
  • Post-its can be placed on table as generated or kept individually in groups.
  • A “Plant” can seed ideas by putting in wacky suggestions etc (if you need to open up ideas)
  • Once clustered and named, each post-it could be numbered accordinGly, then the group could re-cluster into different grouping – this could be a way of moving from a traditional/safe approach to something more radical/innovative?
  • Technique can be mixed with others.
  • Experiment with what works for you.

Top Tip:  Remind participants to write with the glue at the top of the post-it!

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Skinny Latte?

Are you looking for more work?  Be honest!  Are you after more work or a skive? I’ve met some great people at coffee mornings and I’ve also met some who were as dull as dishwater.  Here’s the dilemna – I like coffee, I like people but has this combination got me much new business? Errr no. It has given me the opportunity to procrastinate, to get away from the tasks that need to be done, in the name of networking. I was at a business event in Manchester a few years ago when Sir Alan, or to be precise Lord Sugar, was asked about getting seed funding for a participant’s ‘new idea’ to set up a networking club.  I don’t normally take Sugar [sic] but the poor lad was given the look, swifly followed by one of most apt knock-backs I’ve witnessed. “Networking?”, replied Lord Sugar, “Do you mean bright young things, hanging around in open-necked shirts quaffing Evian water and talking bollocks?”.  “Errr no, drinking coffee”, was the response.  And sadly that just about sums it up.

A Chris

God I used to do these things twice a week.  I was lapping it up.  I even went to the flash ones where you got a free amaretto biscuit.  New business? Not really. Did I meet some useful contacts? Yes but would I or could I have met them somewhere else and under different circumstances? Almost certainly. So cut out the coffee and cut out the crap. By all means network but know why you are there and what you are there for and if you find yourself there every week, asky why?  Other people know why they’re there. It is not to “take your business to the next level”, it is so that they can find out about you and pick your brains for free.

Go for coffee by all means, meet friends, make new ones, relax but if you’re wearing your business hat, act like a business. Do your homework before and after. Check out your new friends and at the very least pick their brains. Ciao

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

To Sell or Not To Sell

I have been away. I have been undercover. I have been at sales bootcamp in the Cheshire countryside where if there had been a second week to the ‘training’ it would surely have included wearing an orange jump suit with optional waterboarding. I found the week to be as rewarding as it was memorable.  Rewarding because it has made me more self-aware despite finding it to be a diet of motivation, bullying and brainwashing.

An article on my experience of the methods used in training will follow.  So too, pending legal advice will be a description of the tactics used by this self-proclaimed ‘ethical’ organisation which feeds at the heart of our education system providing ‘student support’ in the home.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Criminal Disclosure

We know that in a competitive employment market employees have to differentiate themselves in increasingly creative ways but did you know that at the same time as this is happening a small minority of employers are going to extraordinary lengths to acquaint themselves with prospective employees’ backgrounds? No this isn’t a post about monitoring tweets or facebook profiles but one about the worrying way in which a minority of UK employers seem able to sidestep the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and effectively discriminate against ex-offenders.  If this is news to you or you want to learn more about criminal record checks in the UK you should read on.

You need to understand that the Act was intended to help rehabilitate those who have broken the law by prescribing a rehabilitation period after which certain criminal convictions are ‘spent’ or forgotten. The length of the period varies according to the offence and the age of the offender but as a guideline it can generally be said that convictions resulting in:

  • Fines and community service become spent after five years;
  • Prison sentences of up to six months become spent after seven years;
  • Prison sentences between six months and two and a half years become spent after ten years;
  • Sentences over two and a half years are never spent.

It’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of a spent conviction. As you might expect there are exemptions from the Act and most people wouldn’t take exception to the exemptions which apply to certain types of job, usually those:

  • Where people are working unsupervised with high risk groups such as children and older people;
  • Involving senior roles in banking and the financial services industry;
  • Connected to law enforcement;
  • Involving national security;
  • In the prison service;
  • Within health, pharmacy and the law;
  • In private security work.

Employers offering a position which is exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 will usually seek a STANDARD disclosure for around £26 or an ENHANCED disclosure for around £43 from the Disclosure and Barring Service through an accredited third party organisation. It is important here to understand that though the applicant for the check is the employee, the Standard or Enhanced Disclosure check can only be processed via the employer who must prove that it is necessary. An individual cannot request a standard or enhanced disclosure check on themslves.

Where a job doesn’t require a standard or enhanced DBS check the employer still has the right to ask if the individual has a criminal record but if the conviction is ‘SPENT’ under the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders Act 1974 the prospective employee doesn’t have to disclose this. If the employer wants proof that the individual has no criminal record they can ask the individual to request a BASIC disclosure.  Any individual can do this but to do so they must visit the Disclosure Scotland website for this service, confusing I know but you don’t need to live in Scotland to apply for a Basic disclosure in your own name. You might be asked to provide a Basic disclosure for a new job or if you are undertaking volunteer work and there is a cost of £25 to do so.  Of course a Basic disclosure will not reveal details of any spent convictions, you are protected under the Act as the position is not exempted from the it.  If you really want to get into the meat of this you need to visit the DBS website for more detailed information on Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

Where things get interesting is when we consider that sometimes for non-employment purposes someone may be required to disclose information about themselves and any criminal record which they may have.  A POLICE CERTIFICATE is a criminal record check issued mainly for immigration purposes. It is needed if you require a work or residency visa for countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. In the case of the USA you will also need a Police Certificate for holiday purposes if you have ever been arrested or convicted of any offence, no matter how long ago it was. The cost of obtaining a Police Certificate is £45.  A SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST is different as this is to provide an individual applicant with details of any information held about them on police computers and is intended for personal use only. The cost of obtaining a Subject Access Request is £10.  To apply for a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request you should click on the link to your local police force, found on the following ACRO page

Both check the Police National Computer to see if the individual has a criminal record and check for ALL Convictions, Warnings, Reprimands and Cautions recorded on UK Police Systems. The ‘ACPO Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer’, which incorporates the Step Down Model, are applied when preparing the Police Certificate. Scottish and Military Convictions are NOT subject to the Step Down Model.

In essence this means that a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request will in most cases show ALL arrests and convictions, even if the conviction is SPENT.  For this reason a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request should NOT be used for employment purposes and an employer should not ask a prospective employee to obtain one, even if it is at the employer’s expense. If a full disclosure is necessary because the employee is working unsupervised with vulnerable groups the position would be subject to a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure DBS check which the employer could apply for.  If the onus is placed on the employee to confirm the information the position is not subject to a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure and a Basic Disclosure fulfils this requirement, providing the protection afforded to individuals under the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders Act 1974.

A prospective employer, who insists on being provided with a copy of a Subject Access Request, even if it is at their expense, is creating an unlawful bar to employment and potentialy a claim for unlawful dismissal.  At best they are demonstrating their naivety with the basics of employment law, at worst they are setting out to deceive the individual and deprive them of the basic protections afforded to them under the law.  Where a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure is deemed to be necessary strict guidelines are in place governing how that information may be used.  Making the content of a Subject Access Request freely available may lay a prospective employee open to bullying, intimidation or even blackmail in the workplace.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

 

Using the Press

A fascinating fact has just arrived in my inbox from HARO, one of the leading platforms used by independent journalists, researchers and media professionals. Do you know what two thirds of North American journalists do once a week? Abusive responses, ignored. They use press releases. Don’t be too shocked, even in the age of tweets, pins and likes, press releases are as relevant and vital as ever.

B photoYou can learn all that you need to know about maximizing this important vehicle with the mononews e-Guide to the Press Release. It features everything from best practices in preparation, format and content to how to construct sharable releases for the social web. This thirty-five page document is no less than the ultimate resource for a new generation of press releases. And it comes from a reliable source since mononews is the leading lifestyle news distribution service in Canada. It is a must-read guide for all communications professionals and those wanting to learn about the industry.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson

Interview Tips

As a consultant, a blogger, an article writer, or simply in looking for new material for my presentations and stand-up sets, I get to interview a lot of people.  In this brief article I’m going to share some of my tips with you.

In general:

  • Don’t over schedule – 3 x 1 hour interviews are a full day’s worth of work;
  • Save the big cheese to the last – when you’re more informed;
  • Find a comfy nest – pleasant, casual and neutral, with a few armchairs, a whiteboard, coffee-machine and no telephone;
  • Prepare – several pages of questions;
  • Don’t tire of asking, “Please give me an example?”

Remember that the main purpose of an interview is to gather stories and illustrations, so:

  • Measure your effectiveness by the number of sagas produced;
  • Don’t stop digging until you understand.;
  • Ask stupid questions, you’ll feel stupid afterwards if you didn’t ask the obvious;
  • Think small – get the details!

A Adefoun 2

Particularly in a work setting:

  • You want practical illustrations of things which work, or don’t;
  • Discover “the way we do things around here”, get the interviewee to jot down 10 statements which characterise the culture OR bring your best culture statements and ask interviewee to score on a 10 point scale from agree to disagree;
  •  Picture” a day in the life”;
  • How, exactly, did you spend your time yesterday?

And no matter what the setting, who you are interviewing or why you are carrying out the interview:

  • Don’t let your notes age;
  • After each interview write down 6 impressions and fill in the gaps in the notes;
  • Practice and observe other great interviewers;
  • Watch the processes others use and reflect on own;
  • What did you miss or fail to follow up on?

Good luck, feel free to let me know how you get on.

All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson